I was first introduced to bún at Nhu Y while having a meal with Jay’s parents, and I was hooked instantly. A Vietnamese salad composed of rice vermicelli, vegetables, herbs, and marinated meat, bún is a great way to incorporate a variety of fresh, raw vegetables into a meal.
Ever since then, I’ve been trying – to no avail – to find an equally fresh, well-marinated-and-made bún in the city because sometimes, I just don’t have the time to drive down to San Jose to satisfy my cravings for Nhu Y. But on those days, this fresh and easy recipe does the trick to hold me over until my next South Bay bún adventure.
My version falls just a tad short of the incredible bún served at Nhu Y, where I have no doubt that they spend much more time marinating the meat and vegetables. But this version is still tasty enough that I choose not to halve the recipe because I look forward to having the leftovers around for lunch the next day or two.
The bright, spicy dressing clings to the veggies as carrots, cucumbers, and bean sprouts play hide-and-seek among the rice noodles and shrimp. And because those matchstick-sized veggies blend into the noodles so very well, I amped up the veggie-to-noodle ratio to kick up the fresh and healthy factors a notch. Jay was none the wiser. Mission Hide-More-Veggies-In-Noodles: Completed.
Notes on ingredients and substitutions: Carrot, cucumber and daikon are traditionally included in most “authentic” versions, but feel free to substitute a medley of your favorite fresh, raw vegetables. Also, when I go to Nhy Y, I usually order the bún thit nuong (marinated, roasted meat – typically pork or beef), so if you have a favorite lemongrass chicken or beef recipe, that would go well in place of the shrimp. I picked shrimp because I had some left in the freezer, and I knew they could defrost and cook rather quickly.
Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Shrimp and Fresh Veggies (Bún Tôm Xào) (adapted from Bon Appétit, September 2002)
Make this dish vegan by omitting the shrimp, using vegan fish sauce, and if you desire, adding cooked lentils to the final product for some extra protein.
4 oz. rice vermicelli (rice noodles)
1 c. snow peas, thinly sliced
1 c. bean sprouts
1 medium cucumber (approximately 1 c.)
1 large carrot (approximately 1 c.)
1/2 to 1 c. daikon (Chinese radish), coarsely grated (optional)
1/4 c. mint, chopped
1/4 c. basil, chopped
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
1/4 c. roasted salted peanuts, chopped
1/3 c. water
1/4 c. Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc mam phu quoc) or vegan fish sauce
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Serrano pepper, minced
1 Tbsp. chili-garlic sauce
Cook noodles per package instructions for a cold salad. (Mine said to pull the noodles apart; place them in a large bowl; cover them with boiling water, and let the noodles soak for 10 minutes, until tender; then drain, and return the noodles to the same bowl, cutting them in half so they’re a more manageable length for eating.)
Meanwhile, using an extra-coarse grater (anything smaller, and the carrot will be fine but the cucumber will get too mushy; so if you don’t have an extra-course grater, chop the cucumber by hand into matchstick-sized pieces), grate cucumber and carrot. (I’d recommend placing the grated cucumber on a paper towel and squeezing out any excess moisture before adding them to the salad bowl later; otherwise, it waters down the dressing later on.)
To the bowl of cooked, drained noodles, add snow peas, bean sprouts, cucumber, carrot, daikon (if using), herbs, and peanuts. Toss to blend.
In a separate, small bowl (or a measuring cup), combine 1/3 cup water, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, garlic, Serrano pepper, and chili-garlic sauce. Whisk to blend. Season dressing to taste with salt, pepper, and (if you choose) additional chili-garlic sauce. (You can make this sauce a couple days in advance, and let sit in an airtight container in the fridge.) Pour half of the dressing over noodle-veggies mixture, and stir to coat the salad. Let stand 20 minutes, tossing occasionally. You can add more dressing later if needed, but you don’t want the salad swimming in sauce.
1 lb. shrimp
1 Tbsp. oil
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
3 Tbsp. Meyer lemon juice or 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. lemongrass, minced
Toss shrimp in garlic, lemon juice, and lemongrass. Heat large pan to medium heat, add oil, and cook shrimp in pan for 3 to 4 minutes, until bottom side of shrimp turns orange. Flip shrimp over and continue cooking for 2 to 3 minutes.
Place shrimp atop salad, add more dressing if needed, and serve.